Got Allergies? Be Careful How You Hook Up

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that about 11 million Americans have some type of food allergy, but many more are affected by these conditions — especially the partners of highly allergic people. After they consume forbidden foods, they can cause potentially fatal reactions in their afflicted partners by kissing, touching or having intercourse.

Doctors have previously counseled the partners of allergic people to brush their teeth and wash their hands between a peanut butter sandwich and a make-out session, but according to Dr. Sami Bahna, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, new research shows that traces of the offending foods can remain in saliva (or semen) for up to 24 hours. Unfortunately, tooth-brushing and other cleaning efforts may not be enough to protect allergic people on the receiving end of a smooch. (More on Time.com: Want Good Health? There Are 10 Apps for That)

The best prevention is food avoidance for everyone — at least for the 16 to 24 hours before a bout of intimacy. Reports HealthDay:

“People need to know that intimate contact with individuals who’ve eaten or consumed suspect foods or medicines can also cause problems,” said Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, a clinical instructor at New York University’s School of Medicine, New York City, and an attending physician in the allergy and immunology department of Long Island College Hospital. “So, for people with a significant food allergy it’s always better to play it safe by making sure that everyone knows that in all situations these foods are strictly off-limits.”

He believes it’s vital that these individuals, “start a dialogue about [the allergy] with their friends, their colleagues, and their loved ones. In fact, I feel strongly that individuals with serious allergies — and I’m not talking about trivial allergies, but those with life-threatening conditions — have a kind of obligation to themselves and to the people they care about to start this discussion. Because it can and will save lives.”

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